Single parent and working
'Single parent', 'lone parent', or 'one parent family' are all terms which are used to describe you if you are bringing up a child or children on your own
You might be divorced, separated, widowed or never have married. If you are unmarried but living with a partner you will be seen as a couple, not a single parent, and any benefits you can receive will take your partner's income into account.
I'm going to be a single parent soon. What can I claim when I leave work?
Before your baby is born:
If you have been working you will probably be able to get Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance (MA) when you go on maternity leave. If these benefits are less than £59.15 a week (rate from April 07-08) you may also be entitled to Income Support on top. If you already get Child Tax Credit for older children, you may be able to claim a Sure Start Maternity Grant (£500 to help you with the costs of a new baby) once you are 29 weeks pregnant. You claim this from the Jobcentre. To get it you need to have Child Tax Credit of more than the family element (more than £10.50 a week if your children are all over one; more than £21 a week if you have children under one).
Once your baby is born:
You should apply for Child Benefit (£18.10 a week for your first child, £12.10 for other children, from April 2007-08.) You should apply for Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit, or if you already claim tax credits, inform the Tax Credit Office that you have had a new baby If you have not already claimed it and may now be entitled, claim the Sure Start Maternity Grant from the Jobcentre. You need to have Child Tax Credit of more than the family element (more than £21 a week), but make sure you claim within three months of the baby's birth even if you don't yet know your tax credit award When your SMP or MA finishes you can claim Income Support as a single parent. You have a further three months of unpaid maternity leave, but it is up to you when or if you go back. You should tell the Tax Credit Office if your SMP/MA stops and you do not go back to work (or work for less than 16 hours), as your Working Tax Credit will end. If you go back to work for more than 16 hours a week see the next question.
I want to return to my job after I have the baby. Will I only be able to claim Child Benefit?
If you work less than 16 hours a week you can earn up to £20 a week (after tax and NI) and still receive full Income Support. Any money earned over £20 will be deducted from your benefit. You cannot get Working Tax Credit but if you are on Income Support you will get maximum Child Tax Credit. If you work 16 hours or more a week you cannot claim Income Support, but you may qualify for Working Tax Credit. You should let the Tax Credit Office know if you go back to work, and tell them how many hours a week you are doing. Any maintenance you get is not taken into account when you make a claim for tax credits. If you are on a low income (including your tax credits) you may get help with your rent and council tax by applying for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit from the local authority.
What happens about child maintenance if I'm working?
To arrange child maintenance if you are working, not on Income Support, and have no maintenance agreement, contact the regional Child Support Agency Centre for your area, or you may be able to apply online instead. Child maintenance will not affect your tax credits, but it will be taken into account (after the first £15 a week) if you claim Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Benefit.
If you are on Income Support or decide to claim it when your SMP/MA stops, you are currently treated as applying to the Child Support Agency. You may be able to refuse to co-operate, but unless you have a good reason, this could reduce your benefit.
Once maintenance is being paid, you keep up to £10 a week and the rest will come off your Income Support(if your maintenance is calculated under rules from before 3 March 2003, it will all come off your benefit).
Child Support Agency (CSA)
PO Box 55, Brierley Hill, West Midlands, DY5 1YL
Tel: 0845 7133133 (calls charged at local rate)